Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9-11

After 9-11 for several months, I spent the early mornings writing a series of essays about how I felt following the event.  There were twelve total, plus I kept Mayor Giulaini’s farewell address and President Bush’s address, along with many photos.

Below is one of the twelve that I wanted to share on the 10th anniversary of the event, it is lengthy for a blog post at just under 2000 words, but I think it accurately reflects my feelings at the time and remains true today.

My Daughter’s Future

In the midst of the longest peacetime prosperity known in our nation’s history, the unimaginable occurred on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  As the events unfolded and the staggering loss began to be comprehended by the world it became clear to many people that life itself would never again be the same.  Our perception of the past and outlook for the future were abruptly altered.  Life was no longer taken for granted by the public, it was again perceived as being precious.

I can barely imagine where I will be in five years, let alone where my daughter will be in twenty when she has graduated from college and is ready to begin a life on her own.  I hope that my wife and I will have raised her well, taught her how to live a good life and have prepared her to be able to handle the myriad of life situations that will be thrust upon her.  For all of the things that we have and will have the opportunity to control in her upbringing, there are so many more that we will have no control over.

I hope that she will be able to enjoy many more years with both sets of her grandparents, all of whom live within minutes of our home.  Given the ease and improvement of communications and transportation, it is easy to understand why the extended family, which traditionally lived in close proximity to one another has become dispersed.  The distance people live from their family appeared to be decreasingly significant over the past thirty to fifty years.

In the moments and days following the attack people across the country reverted to their most basic security the family.  Internet messages were carried when phone lines could no longer handle the volume of those who reached out to family and friends, if not to learn of their well-being, then to at the very least speak when it was not possible to hold one another.  The magnitude of the event was so deeply felt that it awakened many to the essence of life and reminded them of all things they were blessed to have including their family.


          Counting blessings often involves looking back at one’s life, which in turn tends to reveal one’s outlook on life.  The events that we remember are not necessarily as indicative as the way in which we choose to remember them.  The greater the time that has passed the more our desire of how we wish to remember the event shapes the actual event itself.  It is for this reason that people look back on a past time and recall it as being more innocent, peaceful or safe, or contrarily as a time of greater embarrassment, pain or insecurity.

The description establishes a comparison to what they consider life to be in the present.  An insecure individual seeking security may recall a past in which they felt safe and protected.  A person who prides himself on achievement may look back and find a series of challenges that were overcome.  Another who is depressed may only find those instances to reinforce their current condition. 

The passage of time strips away the fine details and leaves us with a memory that is as much shaped by our desire of the way we wish it to have been as the way it really was.  This double-edged sword tends to reinforce our current condition more than it redirects our life. The person who is able to most objectively recall his past and accurately identify areas of personal strength and those of opportunity will best be able to improve his current position and outlook.

Reflection following tragedy is an emotionally charged exercise.  The highs and lows are not polarized but instead they are slammed into one another producing even greater energy.  At the end of the exercise the individual is left feeling spent, but relieved to have unleashed the feelings pent up inside.

There are many lessons to be learned from the tragedy of September 11, and I am sure many more will come to be realized with the passage of time.  Yet, if there are only three things that I can pass on to my daughter as a result of this experience let them be these:  1.  God will not present you with challenges you are not capable of overcoming. 2.  The manner in which you live each moment of your life will tell your story.  3.  Respect and appreciate life at all times for it is precious.

Watching the recovery effort at each of the ground zero sites one could not help but to be impressed with extraordinary efforts of average people who simply wanted to help.  The stories that were told afterward, especially in New York City were staggering.  The courage of the firemen and police who rushed into the World Trade Center to reach those in need and who were in turn trapped within the rubble, to that of the workers who helped one another to escape from the building and the adjacent grounds in advance of the collapse.  They were unimaginable circumstances and yet everywhere people came forward to help, console and rescue those in need.

People everywhere came together to face this challenge and were not overwhelmed by it.  I could not imagine an event of this magnitude even as it was unfolding, yet even this was not enough to suppress man’s spirit and resolve.  The people who aided in the recovery effort represented what I hope I would have done if I had been there that day.  Their selflessness and dedication to their fellow man will be held as a testament of America’s strength and to man’s resolve.

I am a faithful man, and have become more and more so as I have transitioned from a single person to a husband and father.  I read in the Catholic Catechism that God would not present man with more than he was capable of and I have used these words to give myself strength during trying times.  These words give resolve to my faith and I know with Him beside me my family will be all right.  These words have yet to let me down.  When confronted with a challenge I accept it as God’s test of my character and faith, and I strive to prove myself worthy of Him.


  God presented all of us with a tremendous challenge on that September day and despite the horror we witnessed, in the end there was significantly more good than many would have believed there to have been.  The good must grow and reciprocate itself.  We must learn from this incident and improve ourselves to improve our country to improve our world.  We must all again believe in our own worth as a human being and in our faith in God.  These are the beliefs that will allow us to persevere, survive and thrive in our now changed world.

Many inspiring stories surfaced following the September 11 attacks, yet in the end, our story will not be that of a few moments, but instead it will be a compilation and assessment of our everyday actions for these are what comprise our real character and genuine nature.  We become the aggregate of our actions, the good and the bad, the opportunities we’ve taken and those we have allowed to pass by.  As a result, to regret is to be unhappy with one’s current self and life, it is to look back and dwell on mistakes and indiscretions, instead of focusing on the day and looking to the future.

Living life moment by moment may imply a spontaneous care-free approach to life, but in actuality it is a reminder to focus on the present and not by-pass it while looking to the future.  In the latter case one will often find that the future does not turn out as anticipated because the course was missed by not minding the present path.  Each day reveals many small instances that require a decision to be made.  In the “larger scope” of things, these decisions may seem insignificant, yet taken together they paint a picture of the individual’s character, and as such they are critically important to who you are.  Further, these instances reveal your inclination, which will also be revealed in a crisis that does not allow rationed thought and consideration but instead an instant decision.

Taking life moment by moment not only allows you to consider the decisions you make more carefully, but it slows the pace of life down as well.  Time is a very funny thing in that we consider it to be absolute, yet it is not.  Einstein’s theories aside, the simple fact is that each of follows our own time and pace.  Those who rush through life miss much of it in their race to get to the end, while others meander along not wanting to reach the end, but not experiencing life either.  Finally there are those who know how to live life moment by moment.  This entails not only consideration and decision-making, but appreciation as well.

Appreciating life ought to be the easiest task, yet every day life is overlooked and passed over, until it is lost.  The loss of life reminds each one of us not to take it for granted.  Fortunately, new life also reminds us of its preciousness and unique splendor.  By living life moment by moment one tries to appreciate the life that surrounds us without having to be reminded by the loss or birth of life.  Simple pleasures such as the dew on the grass, a bird on the porch rail or a certain hue of blue in the sky can be absorbed and appreciated when one slows their own pace down.

A slowed pace does not require one to give up anything, contrarily it allows one to achieve more in the same period.  In this sense, slowing down is really refocusing ones attention from a distant point in the future to a point in the here and now.

We are tested according to our ability and when God tests us, as He did on that day, we reveal to ourselves what we are truly capable of, and demonstrate to him our faith and devotion to his way.  When we live up to the challenge presented, we open a new world to ourselves that did not previously exist.  In places where we could not before even see, we are then able to walk within, and our eyes and mind are awakened to seek beyond the boundaries we establish for ourselves.  We cannot however, meet the challenge of God’s test without preparing ourselves.  Preparation of this kind is done daily, with each action we take.  Being conscious of this fact allows us to take pause prior to a rash decision and this moment of hesitation and the thought of what ought to be done will help us to make the right choice more often than not.  Constantly making correct choices becomes habit, and this habit will allow us to take the right actions when there is no time to think, but only to react.

If there is no other lesson learned, let it be that life is precious.  I was fortunate to have learned this lesson early on, but it was clarified on September 11, 2001.  There is no greater gift than life.  It is not something to be taken for granted or to be abused.  Life is not only precious, it is finite, and since we are not privy to how finite, we must appreciate life’s preciousness daily, hourly, to avoid missing the simple pleasures and great gifts life has to offer.

Posted via email from Ross Nunamaker

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